March 18, 1994 changed Sakina Ittoo’s life — her father, Wali Mohammed Ittoo, a veteran National Conference leader and former Speaker of the assembly was killed, allegedly by the Hizbul Mujahideen. She had been a carefree college student then, studying to become a doctor, aware of the events around her, but rarely giving politics much thought.
But two years later, when the state went to the polls for the first time in nine years, Farooq Abdullah persuaded her to give up college and contest the Noorabad seat in southern Kashmir her father had won thrice — 1977, 1983 and 1987. She won. While contesting again in 2002, Sakina survived six attempts on her life. But she continued to campaign. Sadly, she lost to her PDP rival, Abdul Aziz Zargar by a mere 315 votes.
This time she has trounced Zargar by a much bigger margin. Ashiq Bhat
She is undoubtedly the most powerful woman in Jammu and Kashmir’s politics today, president of a party, the PDP, which in the nine years has carved out a political space for itself.
Though her party is unlikely to be part of the government, it has fared better than it did in the 2002 polls, winning 21 seats against 16 last time.
As the daughter of veteran politician Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, Mehbooba drew public attention the moment she joined politics in 1996, initially with the Congress and later the PDP chief. She has had her share of setbacks. She quit her assembly seat after launching the PDP in 1999 to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Srinagar, only to lose to Omar Abdullah. But she bounced back in 2002, winning the Pahalgam assembly seat as well as the 2004 general elections. This time she contested from Wachi, defeating CPM’s Mohammed Khalil Naik. Ashiq Hussain
Habbakaddal constituency is a paradox – though part of Srinagar, the heart of separatist activity, it had never been represented by a Muslim. Kashmiri Pandits were a sizeable number here, and even after their exodus, their postal votes from outside the Valley sent Hindu candidates to the assembly, more so because most Muslims boycotted the polls in 1996 and 2002.
But this time the winner is Shameema Firdous of the National Conference, who defeated sitting, independent MLA Raman Mattoo by 2374 votes. Already a member of the legislative council, Shameema went from door to door canvassing quietly but diligently, since the militant’s boycott call ensured that no public meetings could be held. “I’m thankful to my voters who reposed their faith in me,” said Shameema. “Given the low percentage of polling, my margin is substantial."